S. Korea parliament approves $14 billion extra budget before election

A South Korea won note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/Files

South Korea’s National Assembly approved a 16.9-trillion-won ($14.2 billion) supplementary budget on Monday aimed partly at funding the response to COVID-19 and supporting businesses hit by pandemic restrictions.

The amount approved was 2.9 trillion won more than the sum unveiled last month.

To finance the added 2.9 trillion won, the government will utilise public fund reserves and net budget surplus, and therefore there will be no change to the debt-to-GDP ratio of 50.1%, the ministry added.

With the latest supplementary budget, total government spending increases to a record 624.3 trillion won this year.

South Korea’s new daily COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 for the first time last week amid its Omicron outbreak, with authorities saying social distancing measures would be only slightly eased ahead of the March election.

Businesses have complained about the current curfew and other restrictions such as vaccine passes and a six-person cap on private gatherings that will be in place until at least March 13.

The bill includes provisions for more than 3 million small businesses and self-employed people to receive 3 million won each in relief money, starting as soon as the end of this month, according to a Finance Ministry statement.

The extra budget comes as the ruling Democratic Party struggles to recover public support before a presidential election on March 9.

The additional 2.9 trillion won added to the final bill includes 1.3 trillion won earmarked for financial support for pandemic-hit businesses such as cafes, restaurants, and accommodation facilities, according to the ministry statement.

Another 1.3 trillion won was added to secure more COVID-19 treatments, test kits, hospital beds and for other quarantine measures, the ministry said.


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